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8:03am on Wednesday, 31st May, 2017:



It was the awards ceremony at the Gotland Games Conference yesterday, and I had the job of handing out the award for most innovative game.

There was quite a lot of innovation in the games I'd seen. Some of it was in the game concept, some in the graphics, some in the gameplay and quite a lot in the interface (because the first-year students had to design their own interfaces as part of the project specification).

The winning game, Grave Call, was completely impractical commercially, but that's irrelevant when it comes to innovation. It's for two players, one of whom uses a large, touch-sensitive, flatscreen monitor (maybe about 48 inches) showing a Google map of Visby; the other player is lying on their back in a wooden crate (it looked like a former wardrobe) with only an iPad on 17% battery for company. The conceit of the game is that the crate is buried somewhere in Visby and the person inside it has found an iPad belonging to a stranger. The overall aim is for the person in the crate to use information scattered about within the tablet to give the person at the map clues to find where they're buried before the battery runs out.

As you can imagine, it's quite an experience for both players, but especially for the one in the crate because the only light source is that of the screen and it's quite a claustrophobic space. It gives a real sense of urgency to play. Of course, no-one is going to buy a game that you can only play once and involves 20 minutes of lying in your back in near-darkness, but if they'd made it about earthquake victims and called in an art installation it would win awards.

Then again, it won an award anyway: the award for most innovative game at GGC 2017.

It just goes to show that you can innovte by doing the exact opposite to thinking outside the box...

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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).